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The Synagogue of Ben Ezra ( other names: El Geneiza Synagogue , Elyaho church)
The Synagogue of Ben Ezra Originally was named El Shamieen Church, situated today behind the hanging church.
The synagogue once had an old copy of the Old Testament, It was said that it was written by Ezra the Prophet (Al Azir).
It is believed that site of the Synagogue was where the box of Baby Moses was found. ”. It means in the Encyclopedia Britannica “A prayer place for the Jews”. In old Greek the word synagogue means: “The usual place where the Jews assemble to receive religious teachings and to worship” Some of these temples were built close to a source of water, not for ablution, as much as for protection from any attack.
Ben Ezra synagogue was originally a Christian church that The Copts had to sell the church for the Jews at 882 AD in order to pay the the annual taxes imposed the Muslim rulers at the time and there fore Abraham Ben Ezra who came from Jerusalem bought the church in 882 A.D, during the reign of Ahmed Ibn Tulun with the sum of 20,000 Dinners.
Throughout the centuries the Synagogue received extensive restorations and renovation till its present state. The present building dates back to 1892 when the original collapsed and was a new one rebuilt following the old model.
The description of the Synagogue
It take the shape of a basilica (rectangle), consists of 2 floors, the 1st dedicated for the men while the 2nd dedicated for the women. you will find that The entrance is situated on the north side.
The 1st floor:
It is rectangular in shape, measuring 17 m in length and 11,3 m in width . It is divided into 3 parts, the largest is the middle one (4, 75 m in width) these parts are divided by steel bars painted in a marble-like color.ben ezra
There is a platform located in front of the sanctuary, where the rabbi stands to read the Torah. The lector platform takes an octagonal shape, made of marble.
A copper fence is situated to the 8th side of the rabbi platform, on this fence the Torah and its rolls are to rest.
There is a memorial Stella located in front of the Platform in the middle of the Memorial Stella, There is a top part, consisting of 2 semi-arches carried on 3 pillars, with a height of 85 cm. There are 2 rooms on each side of the holly ark on the 1st floor
The Most Important Decorations of the Synagogue:
This decoration goes back to the Turkish Period. It is clearly shown on the side halls. Such as star patterns, pentagonal patterns and rectangles.
It was used as a background for the geometrical patterns. They are also found around the Star of David in the middle of the ceiling. Here is a mixture of the Hatai and the Romans decorations which are floral patterns which are called the Ottoman arabesque. This decoration includes the floral patterns, palmettos and lotus flower.
The south eastern side of the top of the Torah closet is decorated with stalactites, on top of which is a semi circle with ray decoration.
The frame of the Torah Ark is in mimic decoration and on each of the two sides are 2 wooden columns with geometrical patterns. The 2 columns have stalactite capitals of the Ottoman period.